Ronda | Day Two: Ronda Joy for the Birthday Boy
Being a proponent of self-indulgence in all forms I am a great lover of birthdays. And being a great lover of birthdays I very often get disappointed when they are anything less than perfect. Which is most of the time – after all, when one is hoping for perfection you will almost certainly be on the look out for problems. But this year’s birthday, my 31st I am loathe to admit was, perhaps because it was so unplanned and unexpected (original plans to go to Cadiz being abandoned) utterly and in every way perfect. For how could it be otherwise, waking up in the glorious Spanish city of Ronda to some of the most spectacular views the country has to offer.
Those views, of golden fields, red rocky outcrops, white washed houses dazzled by the sun, and the vast imposing structure of the New Bridge, accompanied me throughout the early exciting stages of my birthday: admiring the views, taking a bath still admiring the views, unwrapping those few presents and cards I had brought with me from the UK, eating breakfast in the hotel restaurant still admiring the views, and finally getting my fill of those same stunning views as we strolled through the morning tranquility of the Almeda Park.
Opening up my birthday presents and walking out into Ronda’s delightfully sunny morning
All that set me up in perfect stead for the day to come, energy levels sky rocketing inspired by the beauty all around us. We headed straight over the vast gorge to the fairly new museum of another artist who had been inspired by these landscapes as well as the wealth of art historical references boasted by Spain: Ronda born Joaquin Peinado. His works, largely figurative moving into cubism, all wonderfully colourful and full of energising geometric forms, are contained in the beautifully converted Moctezuma Palace which is today owned by the Unicaja Ronda Foundation. The conversion makes for the perfect meditative surroundings where art is appreciated at its best: marble floors, clean white walls and incredibly detailed ancient mudejar ceilings. And just in case the building itself does not do it for you, the paintings on show are comprehensive and varied: Not only was a plentiful collection of the work of Peinado himself on show, but the museum was also hosting a temporary exhibit of Picasso’s Voillard Suite of around 100 prints. Those works, which are mainly crafted in etchings and lithographs and depict themes of the minotaur and the sculptor and model, demonstrate once again the versatility of Picasso and how prolific he was in the field of print.
Highlights from the Peinado Museum
If my birthday had ended there, stepping out after that wonderful art gallery experience, I would have been happy, but it was far from over. Next the compulsory coffee, enjoyed in the heart of the old town in the Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, after which a quite random walk took us quite accidentally but fortuitously down around the outskirts of the old arab ramparts of Xijara and to the Islamic remains of the city. Chief among them are the almost fully intact Arab Baths, which today make for an atmospheric visitor’s attraction with sunlight flooding through the small star shaped holes in the stone ceiling, even though the water is today long gone. Then, just outside the baths, the incredible Old Bridge (so called) crossing the El Tajo gorge is likewise a supposed remnant to the old arab civilisation in the city. Today it makes for a stunningly impressive sight.
The discovery of this second bridge happened to take us right back to where we wanted to me, skirting alongside the gorge and heading back towards our hotel, where a chance discovery of a beautiful little printmaking shop meant that we could continue the theme commenced at the art gallery earlier on in the day and buy a few souvenir prints of our own. Then it was onto lunch, as I had seen a little terrace jutting out, almost in defiance of gravity, over the gorge cliff side, and I was quite determined to find it. And find it we did – a restaurant which turned out to be called the Casa Santa Pola restaurant. There the best of birthday lunches commenced. Chilled white wine, views to die for, and the dish we had long been waiting for – our favourite – a delicious caramalised seafood paella. Heavenly.
Birthday lunch at the Casa Santa Pola
Though we struggled to get back on our rather tipsy legs post lunch, we were but a stone’s through from the Palacio del Rey, a site which had attracted us because of its promise of beautiful Moorish-inspired gardens, which had a further hidden attraction in store – a secret mine, plunging down into the depths of the cliff, at the bottom of which one found oneself at water level in the great El Tajo gorge affording quite out of this world views of the rock forms from below.
The Palacio del Rey gardens and secret mine
Back atop the cliffs, we managed to wring the most out of a quickly dwindling day. A requisite few hours by the hotel swimming pool was enjoyed and savoured, with a glass of sparkling cava providing apt accompaniment to this more chilled section of the day. This was quickly followed by a hop over the gorge again to the Mondragon Palace which isn’t much to look at on the inside, but outside has gardens which are the very typique of Moorish Andalucia. From there is was only a stone’s throw to walk down someway into the gorge again, but this time to secure the ultimate of views on our respective cameras – of Ronda’s Puente Nuevo from afar.
The Mondrigan Palace and the perfect Ronda viewpoint
And so ended my brilliant birthday, with final icing provided on my jam-packed cake of a day by a stunningly thought out sampling of Ronda’s nouvelle cuisine offerings at the Restaurante Tragabuches. We had to get through quite a lot of wine and a fair bit of food too before I could finally accept that I was now a good year into my dreaded 30s, but if birthdays are going to be like this one, I’m starting to look forward to when I turn 32!
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